Subject: ETISC: Getting Away with Murder (Pt 1 of 4)
Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 18:31:22 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

(Part 1 of 4) East Timor International Support Center

GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER A Chronology of Indonesian Military sponsored Paramilitary and Militia Atrocities in East Timor from November 1998 to May 1999

Published by ETISC 15 May 1999


According to a United Nations brokered agreement signed between Indonesia and Portugal on 5 May 1999, the UN is to conduct a consultation of the East Timor population on August 8 1999. (ETISC's Occasional Paper Nº 1 ‘Indonesian Orchestrated Savagery in East Timor' critically examines the various components of the agreement). The East Timorese are to decide if they want to accept or reject an offer of autonomy within Indonesia made by President B.J. Habibie. If they reject it, Indonesia will withdraw from the territory. The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI – formerly ABRI) are covertly trying to undermine the process, arming militia squads of Timorese (from East and West Timor). Under the supervision of TNI personnel, Timorese are being trained, paid, equipped and encouraged to kill, torture and intimidate the East Timorese population into voting for autonomy. Supporters of independence are being subjected to extreme brutality and death. The numbers of victims of the violence fostered by TNI has reached alarming levels, deeply disrupting normal life in East Timor, and adding to the already considerable suffering of the people of this troubled territory. Holding a Consultation of the will of the people under such conditions is impossible. The result would totally fail to reflect the true preference of the people, and could therefore not be considered legitimate.

According to the 5 May agreement, the UN Secretary-General has until 13 June to decide if the conditions in the territory make a consultation possible. It is the view of the East Timor International Support Center (ETISC) that unless drastic measures are taken at once, and security in East Timor is assured by a force other than the Indonesian Armed Forces, a fair Consultation will not be possible. The first step which is immediately required is the effective disarming of the TNI created militias.

The present document has been compiled by ETISC. It is published with the aim of impressing upon international public opinion, and in particular, on those responsible for influencing or determining policy regarding East Timor in various government and non-government organisations, the huge extent of the violence that has been inflicted by the TNI created militias in East Timor since their creation in the latter part of 1998.

Excerpts from the chronology

On 25 January Mahidi militia attacked Galitas village. They burnt the houses of the residents, then sadistically killed a pregnant woman. After shooting her dead, they cut up her corpse. With a knife, they cut open her abdomen and pulled out the foetus. Five other residents of the village were also killed including her father who was beheaded and her brother.

On 6 April Besi Merah Putih militia, Indonesian armed forces and police from Liquiça surrounded the Liquiça church where 2000 people were seeking refuge from previous violence. The police shot tear gas into the church and gunshots into the air which gave a chance for the militia to enter the church grounds and shoot at the people in the church. The people sprayed by the tear gas ran outside of the church with their eyes closed then Besi Merah Putih began to massacre the people with arrows and spears. An eyewitness said "they shot and hacked at people as though they were killing animals. Even when people were raising their arms to surrender, they were still shot and hacked". 62 people were slaughtered. On 7 April an Indonesian army spokesman gave his version of the Liquiça massacre: "five separatists were killed after opening fire at soldiers".

On 17 April a pro-autonomy rally was held in Dili outside the Governor's office attended by a number of militia groups and the military and military commander, police representatives, the Governor and pro-autonomy civilians. Eurico Guterres urged his army trained militia men to "conduct a cleansing of all those who have betrayed integration. Capture and kill them, if you need to". Fearing attacks by the militia, Manuel Carrascalao, a pro-independence leader who was housing 143 refugees, asked the military commander for help to guard his home. Colonel Suratman flatly refused. "The military must remain neutral," he said. Around 2pm one hundred militia stormed Manuel Carrascalao's home. Some family members and the refugees were trapped, unarmed. They lay hugging the floor, screaming and weeping in terror as the shots and rocks blasted through the windows at the front of the house. Up to 12 people were killed including Manuel's 18-year-old son. Diplomatic sources said the militia attack was discussed at a senior security co-ordination meeting held at the armed forces headquarters in Jakarta, and was attended by General Wiranto, Udayana military commander Major General Adam Damiri and East Timor military commander Colonel Tono Suratman.

On 26 April in Bobonaro, the militia cut off the ear of a 20 year old youth, forcing him to eat and swallow it whilst having a machete to his throat. Then more than twenty of them trampled on his back and front, after finishing they delivered him, nearly dead, to the military.


The Indonesian armed forces, TNI, have had a free hand in East Timor since the invasion in December 1975. Military presence in East Timor is extremely high. Leaked military documents have revealed that military numbers are in the region of 20,000. This means one soldier per 40 inhabitants in East Timor, a ratio that is seven to nine times higher than the ratio in Indonesia. In addition, the military has a record of using East Timorese civilians to intimidate their fellow countrymen into supporting Indonesia and authorities have repeatedly expressed the need to arm civilians in order to "maintain security".

Military intelligence operatives have penetrated most segments of society. The SGI - an acronym of SATGAS-INT (Task Force Intelligence) is the intelligence arm of Kopassus (Special Forces, the ‘red berets'). These are an ‘elite' force in the army and wield great influence, especially in East Timor. Retired General Benny Murdani and Lieutenant-General Prabowo Subianto, the now disgraced son-in law of ex-president Soeharto, are from this background. The use of local militia units was pioneered in the 1980s by Prabowo and the Timorese fighters he trained and armed are now the core of the militias.

Major General Adam Damiri, with strong Soeharto connections, heads Kodam IX, the Bali-based Udayana military region which includes East Timor. He was chief of staff of the vital Jakarta military garrison when that command was headed by Major General Syafrie Syamsuddin, a former Soeharto bodyguard and presidential favourite and he was hand-picked by Prabowo to command the 1st infantry Division of Kostrad, one of two key units in Indonesia's 27,000-strong Army Strategic Reserve. Australian intelligence has reported that General Damiri is particularly determined to deflect any move to independence.

Another key person within this system is Brigadier Mahidi Simbolon, the second in command of Kodam IX. He has a Kopassus and SGI background and has spent a large part of his career in East Timor, including being military commander there. He led the campaign to arrest Xanana Gusmao. He has been quoted as outlining the policy to "use the Timorese to crush the Timorese". Reliable information links him to the dirty tricks taking place in Timor now.

The military officer immediately responsible for East Timor is Colonel Tono Suratman, a Kopassus officer who heads the local Korem (Military District) command. He has Soeharto connections. His family are the co-owners of a pearling company with Soeharto's daughter who is also General Prabowo Subianto's wife.

The Indonesian military created in the 1980s and 1990s in all 13 districts of East Timor, the so-called "tim" paramilitary teams. These teams act on direct orders from Indonesian officers. Used as a backup force for military operations to combat the resistance, they are responsible for many of the human rights violations. More recently paramilitary gangs have been formed which are tacitly backed by the regular armed forces. They often wear red and white headbands (the colour of the Indonesian flag) and carry machetes or other weapons but do not wear uniforms.

TNI's last major military operations in East Timor, conducted in early November 1998 and directed against East Timor's armed resistance, were publicly condemned by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Consequently to avert further damage to TNI's image, the Indonesian armed forces seem to be resorting to the use of Timorese militias which have flourished since Indonesian President B.J. Habibie's proposal in January 1999 that independence would be considered "should the Timorese not agree to autonomy".

Some of the paramilitaries are in the pay of the military intelligence/SGI, i.e. receive Kopassus backing and may have the financial support of the Soeharto family, including Prabowo. East Timor is the Indonesian "province" with the second largest landholdings under control of the Soeharto family, namely 564,867 hectares. CNRT (National Council for Timorese Resistance), the umbrella organisation of all the resistance groups, stated in March 1999 that they planned to seize all these properties after independence had been obtained. Batara Indra, an Indonesian conglomerate backed by retired Generals Benny Moerdani and Dading Kalbuadi, (both behind the killings of Australian-based journalists in Balibo and Dili in 1975), controls the sandalwood forests of East Timor, including the production of sandalwood oil and sandalwood powder for export. Batara Indra also exports statues to Taiwan and to Italy made from East Timorese sandalwood and marble. Most of the hotels and the only cinema in Dili are owned by Batara Indra, while all the large construction firms in Dili, which are involved in all the large infrastructure projects, including building the irrigation canals and ditches for Indonesian "transmigrants", either belong to Benny Moerdani's Batara Indra Group, or to the Anak Liambau Group of the Jakarta-appointed East Timorese governor, Abilio Osorio Soares. The newest militia gangs are in the pay of local politicians, notably governor Abilio Soares, who fear the loss of their privileges.

Militia Gangs in East Timor Mahidi (Mati Hidup Demi Integrasi -Life and Death for Integration), a 1,300 member militia, is based in Ainaro (a city directly south of Dili) and is led by Cancio Lopes de Carvalho, 30. (Mahidi happens to be the name of Mahidin Simbolon - Deputy Commander of the command centre for operations in East Timor.) Cancio is the younger brother of the Secretary General of a pro-independence group GRPRTT (The Timorese Movement for Reconciliation and Peace) and the son of the liurai (chief) of Cassa-Ainaro. His group's arsenal includes three M-16s and 16 World War II-vintage G-3 rifles left when the Portuguese fled East Timor. "We are ready for war," he says. Cancio worked as a public servant in the Justice Department and after the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991, he formed a group of intelligence agents who worked with TNI (then named ABRI) in intimidating and arresting pro-independence youth of Ainaro and Covalima districts. After Soeharto's fall, Cancio attempted to strengthen his group by forcibly recruiting men from the Ainaro district and giving them military training. On December 17, 1998, with support from TNI, he established the Mahidi militia which became an official organization on January 1, 1999, through an inaugural function attended by the Kodim (District military) commander of Ainaro, the police chief of Ainaro, and some of the leaders of the Ainaro district-level legislature. Mahidi with the support of TNI's RATIH militia, began entering hamlets to force people to become members. Feeling threatened, many people registered themselves as members, while many others fled to avoid the pressure.

Besi Merah Putih or BMP (Red and White Iron) was established on December 27, 1998. It operates in Maubara and around Loes River west of Dili, under the leadership of Manuel de Sousa with the support of the district chief of Liquiça, Leoneto Martins (an honorary member of Kopassus from the time of Prabowo's involvement in East Timor). De Sousa was a member of the PDI-faction in Liquiça from 1992 to 1997. In the first few months after its establishment, the gang recruited its members from ordinary peasants, old people and boys younger than 18. According to some sources, the process of recruitment was done through terror, intimidation, and death threats. Those who finally agreed to join the gang were promised a wage of Rp. 25,000 per day. (A Dili labourer earns Rp 5000 per day)

Aitarak (thorn), a militia based in Ainaro is commanded by Eurico Guterres, who is now vice commander of all paramilitary groups. After the possibility of independence for East Timor was announced, Eurico and his supporters established Aitarak. In 1988, Guterres was detained by the Indonesian military because he was suspected of being involved in a plot to murder President Soeharto when he visited Dili. After he was released, he became a member of Gada Paksi. Guterres is also known as the leader of a gambling racket at an inter-city bus terminal and several other places.

Gada Paksi is a group established in the early 90s by the governor Abilio Soares with the support of Kopassus under Prabowo. The Gada Paksi formed the basis of the notorious ninja gangs that tortured and murdered suspected activists in Dili in the mid 90s - always wearing their trademark black hoods. They are now based in the Puke Laran village in the district of Liquiça.

Halilintar (lightening or thunderbolt) is based in Atabae in the Bobonaro district which borders West Timor. This organization was initially formed in 1975 by a liurai from Atabae named Mayor Tabesi, but is now led by Joao da Silva Tavares. Tavares has been fighting on the side of the Indonesians since before the invasion. In October 1975, he joined in attacks launched from Indonesian territory against Fretilin. For this he was rewarded by being appointed Bupati of the Bobonaro district for two terms. While Bupati he took over many landholdings vacated by East Timorese who fled to Australia and Portugal and is now an important landowner. He is also leader of the district's MUSPIDA (Authorities' Council containing both military and 'civil' government representatives), and with the support of TNI officials, has been appointed the War Commander of the Pro-Autonomy Forces.

Makikit – operates around Viqueque

Tim Saka has its headquarters in the village Lai-Sorulai, sub-district Quelicai, district Baucau. This group was formed during TNI/ABRI's Operasi Kikis (Operation Erosion) in 1983. During this operation, TNI used East Timorese people as frontline shields as it hunted down Falintil. Saka was involved in many killings during the operation. After the first was shot dead in 1994 the leadership was taken over by the vice-commander Sgt. Joanico da Costa. It now has weapons such as AK-47s, M-16s, and hand grenades obtained from TNI.

Pana - has its base in Fatuboro village, Maubara sub-district, Liquiça district and is led by Domingos Policarpo. When conducting raids and attacks, Pana receives support from the members of Territorial Battalion 143.

Jati Merah Putih – (Real Red and White) based in the Los Palos region.
Laksaur Merah Putih - based in Salele, Covalima district
Darah Merah (Red Blood) – operates in the middle region of East Timor – its commander-in-chief is Lafaek Saburai.
Dadurus (Maliana) AHI - Aku Hidup untuk Integrasi – (I Live for Integration) or ‘fire' in Tetun is based in Aileu. Ablai is based in Same.
Tim Sera – led by Sera Malik and Tim Alfa operate in the eastern region of East Timor.
Naga Merah – Red Dragon
Ermera Sakunar – led by Simao Lopes Tatarah and Loromea operate in the southern region.
Rajawali (eagle) was formed as a spin off of Gada Paksi in the early 90s and was trained by Prabowo's Kopassus troops.
Darah Integrasi (Blood of Integration) – based in Gleno in Ermera Tim 59

Also there are militarised civilian forces that are on temporary contracts with TNI, with inferior pay and equipment. These are what in some countries are called "auxiliary forces". Groups include the self-defence forces called Wanra or RATIH and Keamanan Rakyat (People's Security) or Kamra. Official members of Wanra and Kamra are easy to distinguish from the other militia groups as they wear uniforms, carry themselves with a degree of military discipline and do not routinely carry M16s

Pro-integration groups Forum Persatuan Demokrasi dan Keadilan (FPDK or Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice) was established in late February 1999. It is headed by a Bupati of Dili Domingos Soares and controls the activities of the militias. Forum members are made up of local officials both Timorese and Indonesian. One of the spokespeople is Basilio Dias Araujo, who studied in the United Kingdom, speaks good English and is the deputy head of the provincial investment board (BKPMD), the body which makes the decision on who is allowed to invest in what field and where in East Timor.

The East Timor United People's Front (FUPTO), a pro-integration umbrella group founded April 30 1999 by Jakarta's roving ambassador for East Timor affairs, Francisco Lopes da Cruz

Getting Away with Murder Part 2

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